Seven lords and a baroness, a few of whose relatives were murdered by the Nazis, have published a letter in The Times on Tuesday, saying that the construction of a $65 million memorial and learning center in Victoria Tower Gardens in London is proceeding against “well-founded protests from neighbors.”
The signatories to the letter included TV executive Michael Grade, former P&O chairman Jeffrey Sterling, former Lib Dem QC Lord Carlile, law professor Ruth Deech, textiles magnate Simon Haskel, Hampstead businessman Parry Mitchell, gastroenterologist Leslie Turnberg and Lib Dem peer Monroe Palmer (H/T Architects Journal).
The peers said the memorial’s design, by David Adjaye and Ron Arad, for the Holocaust Memorial in Westminster “evokes neither the Holocaust nor Jewish history, and the risk is that its purpose will not be obvious to passers-by.”
David Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The son of a Ghanaian diplomat, David Adjaye lived in Tanzania, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon before moving to Britain at the age of nine.
Ron Arad was born in Tel Aviv. He attended the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem between 1971–73 and the Architectural Association in London from 1974–79.
The UK Holocaust Memorial is planned to be built in the southern part of Victoria Tower Gardens in London, close to the Houses of Parliament. The memorial will honor the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and all other victims of Nazi persecution, including Roma, LGBT, and disabled people.
The memorial design was decided through an international competition that received 92 entries, leading to 10 finalists who were decided on by a panel of 13 judges: Peter Bazalgette (chair), Charlotte Cohen, Samantha Cohen, Daniel Finkelstein, Alice Greenwald, Ben Helfgott, Sajid Javid, Natasha Kaplinsky, Sadiq Khan, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Julia Peyton-Jones, Sarah Weir and Paul Williams.
The memorial combines a sculpture with an underground learning center that will educate visitors about prejudice and discrimination. The sculpture consists of 23 bronze fins, with the gaps between the fins representing the 22 countries where the Holocaust destroyed Jewish communities, and acting as separate paths down to a hall named the “Threshold” containing the learning center, along with a “contemplation court” and “hall of testimonies.”
According to Architects Journal, the government-sponsored memorial project has been facing criticism from local residents from day one. The peers’ letter to The Times read: “It would be far better to re-deploy the $65 million allocated to the new scheme to a smaller, simpler memorial in Westminster, enhancement of the Imperial Museum project, and to further study the impact of Holocaust learning and memorials.”
Architects Journal also reported that the opponents of Adjaye’s and Arad’s Holocaust Memorial staged a demonstration on the afternoon of September 4 outside the public launch of the project’s latest designs.
A spokesman for the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation issued a statement saying: “The Holocaust memorial will remind us all that a central role of democracy is to encourage tolerance. No location in Britain is more suitable.”